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CN Feb 22 2018

Three great friends, who haven’t been on the show for a while, visit to kick around the week’s news.

The students of Douglas High School in Florida have captured our attention, especially after last night’s CNN Town Hall. There’s also Janice Jackson, our new CPS CEO. and the decision not to close those four Englewood high schools all at once. Donald Trump’s fascinating infrastructure plan, which proposes build 1.5 trillion dollars’ worth of roads, bridges, tunnels and airports, without actually having any money on the table.  And Block Club Chicago, the newest effort to build a self-sustaining local news journalism site.

To help us sort it out – we have WBEZ’s Sarah Karp, Chicago Public Square’s Charlie Meyerson and NPR’s David Schaper.

“I was in Newtown, Connecticut after the shooting at Sandy Hook,” Schaper begins. “and what struck me—and I’m actually getting goose bumps just thinking about it—is the profound silence in that community. The people were just so devastated. People couldn’t put their thoughts to words in… I mean, there were people out there that were speaking, but there was just this overall sense of just devastation and of loss, and a profound sadness. And as a result, I don’t think that the message got out as well and wasn’t carried as well…families retrench, schools retrench, kids pull together and we’re constantly told, you know, stop putting a microphone in my face. Go away, let us grieve, let us grieve, let us deal with this in our own way. And you want to respect that. But at the same time I think in a lot of incidents in previous times maybe some people haven’t taken advantage of the spotlight that they had until it was too late.”

There’s an irony in the fact that Donald Trump appears more distant, and less empathetic than previous presidents, and we wonder if that has contributed to this sudden, surprising activism. “This is one of so many unanticipated consequences of the Trump presidency.,” Meyerson asserts. “It is in many ways an empowered population of civilians and voters. People are more engaged at all levels and in all political orientations in the process than I think surely would have happened had Hillary Clinton won the election.”

“And,” Karp adds, “I think that there have been Chicago Public School students who have been speaking out about gang violence and gun violence in their neighborhoods and have been trying to capture an audience in the way that these kids have. And I kind of wonder if there’s any sadness or frustration on their part that they haven’t gotten the same attention when Hadiya Pendleton was killed.”

Social media, Schaper says, is a major factor, and it’s paying a huge role in the current debates over countless social issues.

“I think the immigration issue is another issue,” he claims, “that, for a lot of people in urban areas and suburban areas are having a much more sympathetic view towards those who are coming to this country without documentation because they’re knowing them, they’re seeing them, and they’re seeing how their kids interact with their kids. And it’s changing the dynamic. And this is another issue where, again, the kids are leading and the adults are following.”

We ask Sarah Karp about Janice Jackson. She appears to be popular with parents and politicians alike, and she’s been able to perform a couple of policy reversals, such as the decision not to immediately close the four Englewood-area high schools, as had been announced.

“You don’t get to the top by not being a person that can compromise, that can make decisions, and that can maintain sort of a distance from sort of being too friendly with people, or too much of somebody’s person,” Karp explains. “So I will say that that is impressive about her. Even being chief education officer, she was basically No. 2 to Forrest Claypool. She didn’t become attached to him. She didn’t go down with his ship, you know? And she’s maintained sort of what her job is.

Now, I mean, there’s going to be challenges coming up. Even just a couple weeks ago, it was maybe last week or the week before, when Governor Rauner announced his budget and he said he wants to take the pension pickup away from Chicago Public Schools. Well, this will leave a big hole in the Chicago Public Schools’ budget, hundreds of millions. Now coming into this, one of the advantages that she had is that Forrest had, I mean, say what you may about his tenure, I mean, he dealt with a lot of financial issues, he pushed back against the state, and they won some victories. Now if she now wakes up and says okay, now I have to start cutting because I have this hole, well, I think that ends the honeymoon pretty quickly.”

Karp tells us about a recent story she wrote for WBEZ about Hope High School. “When I first started covering CPS, which was like 15, 17 years ago, it was known as a good school on the South Side. And I remember going there. You know who was the principal? Mahalia Hines. Mahalia Hines was the principal that brought that school into being good. And one of the first people I met there was a guy named Chip Johnson. Well, now Chip Johnson is the head of CPS outreach. He is the guy that is presiding over the school closing hearings, closing a school that is very dear to his heart.”

Today, according to Karp, of the 638 high-school aged students who live in Hope’s neighborhood, 602 have elected to leave. But that doesn’t tell the full story. The Englewood kids have scattered all over the city, while other children, mostly people with special education needs, have pooled in the school. Special Ed now serves more than half  of the population. And those former Hope kids? They’re in a mix of alternative schools, charters and traditional neighborhood schools – in other neighborhoods.

“In fact only 8% go to selective enrollment schools,” Karp explains. “And I can tell you from looking at the data that very, very few are actually at the Peytons and the Joneses and the really, really good schools. Most of the kids that are in selective enrollment schools are in places like King High School, South Shore High School. These are good selective enrollment schools, but they’re not like the stars of the system….So not many are getting to really, really tremendously better schools.” But they’re having to leave their neighborhoods to get even that incremental improvement.

And meanwhile at Hope High School, which will remain open for another three years because the community insisted on it, the former bustling, championship-winning school is a distant memory. “I mean, would you want your child in a school that doesn’t have much of anything? I mean, not even like—you talk about electives. Like let’s not even talk about after school. Let’s just talk about can you take German, Spanish, French, or…no. You can take Spanish online. That’s it. That’s your choice. That’s it. I mean, gym online. Online gym.

“You know, this is the thing, Karp says. “Some of this is about the kids. You know, you can change the school’s structure. But kids are coming with their socioeconomic backgrounds and educating them is a difficult job.”

“I remember a series that I edited that Jody Becker did for WBEZ back in the late ‘90s about Orr High School,” Schaper recalls. “And she embedded in Orr High School, as it went through one of these transformations and the difficulty of really changing a culture. You can change the staff all you want, and to some degree the challenges that the students are facing remain the same. And resources always becomes a question. And these schools, you know, they kind of reinvent the same problems, in some way, and not the solutions.”

Karp tells us about a recent report issued by the Inspector General for CPS. He found widespread abuse of the system that’s supposed to allocate seats in the neighborhood schools more fairly.

“And so basically, you know, if you have extra space, you can open those seats up,” she explains. “But people are supposed to apply. There’s supposed to be a lottery. Then you get on a waiting list and maybe you get into the school.”

“But principals are sort of not using that process and using their own process. And what they’re doing is some of them are looking at attendance records to see if they want the kids. Some of them are looking at grades. Some of them are looking at whether the kid has been suspended. And why are they doing that? I mean, it makes perfect sense. Why would you take a kid that you don’t need to take if the kid has got attendance problems? Why would you do that?

“I feel like if Janice Jackson was truly honest,” Karp continues, “she would look in the face of the people in Englewood and say listen, you guys are the losers. Your schools are the losers. That’s all there is to it…And going back to the Inspector General’s report, where people are letting kids in, you know, through the side door. Why? Well, one’s incentive—so you have this disincentive to let in kids that are, you know, might drag down your ratings, but you also have this huge incentive because you need that money.”

“That money” refers to the CPS practice of budgeting each school by the number of children enrolled, rather than funding specific programs and services in the school. So if you’re a principal and you’re losing enrollment, you’re losing money.

“On behalf of those parents who still have kids in schools, I mourn the loss of or the undermining of the neighborhood school,” says Meyerson. “I mean, the historic neighborhood school is a place where parents in a neighborhood met one another…And now that they’re sending their kids elsewhere, those neighborhood ties don’t exist. They’re not being formed.

“From the outside looking in,” he explains, “the school ratings game seems like a scam. And I say this as the parent of three sons who are now grown and out of schools and who went to, I think, an excellent school, but one that consistently wound up dinged in the ratings because, in large case because it was a diverse school with a lot of kids with socioeconomic disadvantages.

“And they were getting, as far as I could tell, a great education, but they didn’t have the advantage. Their test scores weren’t what they needed to be. And the result was a great school that showed up in the ratings, the state ratings, as not a New Trier level school, or a Peyton level school. And I think that they feel misleading.”

 

So let’s talk about infrastructure. What, under the proposed Trump infrastructure plan, would be the toll from, say the Edens Junction to downtown on the Kennedy?

“If that was tolled, it could be three, four, five bucks,” deadpans Schaper. It’s the president’s ‘pay as you go” federal concept that, having no money of its own, proposes to sell the expressways to investors, who would fix them and recoup their payments – and a profit – from user fees.

“This Trump infrastructure plan is a $1.5 trillion plan that actually has no actual money,” Schaper explains. “The President talks about, and has proposed, 200 billion coming from the federal government, but he doesn’t identify where that money comes from. And his aides have said, well, we envision budget cuts elsewhere that would—in the federal budget—that would provide extra money that we could then shift to infrastructure at the rate of $20 billion a year, so we keep whittling it down. It’s oh, it’s 1.5 trillion. Well, it’s really 200 billion. Oh, that’s over ten years, so that’s 20 billion a year…The way they get to some of that cost savings elsewhere in the federal budget, a $750 million cut to Amtrak. Huge cuts to transit programs, particularly capital grants that transit systems around the country, including here in Chicago, are in desperate need of. And the end result is, well then how much new money is really going in?

So that’s the other part of the Trump infrastructure plan – cutting 3/4 billion from Amtrak and other legacy public transit systems.

“The big concern I hear from a lot of people,” Schaper concludes, “is there could be widespread disparities then, projects that—projects that can generate revenue—will get funded. And those improvements that could help, you know, provide new transit options for people in underserved communities – may not.”

And in other good news for the president, Sinclair, the broadcast chain that’s made a name for itself promoting the policies of Donald Trump during its newscasts could be about to gain control of all the Tribune television stations, with the possible exception of WPIX in NYC and Chicago’s Own WGN. But there’s a wrinkle.

“Well,” explains Meyerson, “buying it and then selling it off. To a friend. And apparently, Robert Feder noted this morning, apparently they would continue to operate it, but they wouldn’t own it. So it seems like a difference without a distinction. And we should mention that WGN radio is also in the mix, the one radio station owned by Tribune Media…What becomes of WGN television under such a company, whether it owns it or whether it manages it? I think it’s a legitimate question, a legitimate concern, given the historic role that WGN television and radio have played in, you know, the civic discussion of this city.”

And finally, Block Club Chicago. It debuted with a huge splash last week when fans of the predecessor site, DNAInfo, pledged $130,000 in a couple of days to its Kickstarter.

“You know, I think they’re off to a good start,” Meyerson enthuses. “Anything can happen. And once you have content, and once you have an audience, which $130,000 will buy you, enough to get started and begin to build an audience, I think you can begin to develop other revenue streams, continuing membership fees or contributions, an advertiser base. I still think the digital advertising business, the local digital advertising business, is in for a shakeup and a reinvention. There’s money there, and I think it can be tapped by smart organizations.”

“The question is do they have business people really involved,” Karp wonders. “Because the people I know involved are mostly the reporter people. And, you know, even when you look at like the Chicago News Cooperative from I don’t know how long ago that was, which, you know, was a local entity, I think one of their problems was they didn’t have business people.”

“And they didn’t have digitally savvy content people, either,” Meyerson counters. “These guys know they have built an audience at DNAinfo. They understand what works.That’s a big difference, too.”

Schaper, our guest from NPR, says he’s still on board with non-commercial. “I’m not totally convinced that the nonprofit model can’t work,” he asserts. “There’s some way to marry the two together that you are providing sale, services, advertising, in a way. But, you know, public broadcasting has survived. Public radio is doing better than ever.”

And as the conversation winds down, all four panelists agree that, no matter what, you’ve gotta have good content first.

You can listen to this program on SoundCloud Here.

And you can read a full transcript HERE:CN transcript Feb 22 2018

 

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CN February 15 2018

Susana Mendoza, our state’s Comptroller, has emerged as one of Bruce Rauner’s most vocal opponents. And she wasn’t impressed with yesterday’s budget speech. She also tells us that she’s still strongly in JB’s corner, and she thinks the Quinn/Hampton mess has taught Speaker Madigan some lessons. “I think this is a…he’s had better days, put it that way,” she tells us.

You can watch the full show by clicking the video above.

You can listen to the show on SoundCloud.

You can read full transcript of the show here:CN transcript Feb 15 2018

 

Below are some selected highlights from this show, which was recorded Thursday Feb. 15 at 10:45 AM.

 

Reaction to Gov. tuner’s Feb 14 budget speech

Ken: Sen. Cullerton says he thinks the proposed budget’s out of balance by 1.5 billion.

Mendoza:     I think at least by one and a half billion. It’s…I believe it’s far more than that. It’s clearly not balanced, so let’s just start with that. I mean, for the governor to even pretend that this budget is balanced is again just…honestly, I don’t know how to say this nicely, but it’s like living in a fantasyland. It may be balanced in his head, but that’s the only place on earth. And again, at the end of the day you have to understand that you cannot balance a budget with just wishful thinking, with, you know, pixie dust or magic beans. You actually have to crunch the numbers, right?

I mean, his stuff doesn’t make any sense. And ultimately, you can’t tell the taxpayers that you’re gonna reduce their tax load without being willing to say where you would cut to make up for the difference in the lost revenue…He’s already tried that. It blew a $5 billion hole in our budget when that tax expired, yet the governor continued to spend as if that tax revenue was still coming in. And then just blames everybody else for the state’s fiscal problems, when in fact they’re his fault.

Reaction to Gov. Rauner’s plan shifting pension payments to local school districts

You’d have to be crazy to think that the Democrats and the Republicans are going to have enough votes to even move forward with a piece of legislation like that, because frankly, the greatest critics of his own legislation are the Republican members of his chamber, who he would normally have to rely on as at least a base to get started on any legislation.

And, you know, just based on the reaction of what I heard, forget about my opinion, the Democrats and the Republicans were leading the charge against Governor Rauner yesterday saying that he wants to hike people’s property taxes up, you know, dramatically. That’s dead on arrival. And it’s not dead on arrival even because the Democrats don’t work with the governor. It’s dead on arrival because his own party…will never let that happen.

Reaction to question about how Rauner will co-operate with Trump on the federal infrastructure initiative

Representative McSweeney actually was in Washington and even doubled down on realizing that there’s really been very little to no communication between the Rauner administration and the Washington folks to actually bring those transportation dollars here. So it was a real, real interesting moment in the speech when he said oh, we’ve been working hard and we’re ready to pull the trigger on this transportation thing.

And I turned to look at Representative McSweeney just because I thought, oh, that is the biggest whopper that has maybe come out so far. And you could see him like squirming in his chair, like that is so not true! But we have a governor who just really has an inability to…to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing, who has the inability to, frankly, just tell the truth to the public.

You know, he spouts these things off as if they’re true. And, you know, I just hope that by now, after four years of hearing this, the public is just smarter and can understand that the governor just can’t tell the truth. I mean, he’ll lie to a cardinal to his face and…and then pretend he didn’t. And so that’s who we have, and we need a new governor.

Reaction to Gov. Rauner’s proposals for Higher Ed funding

Governor Rauner has, you know, reduced funding to higher ed by 60%, 30% in his first year alone. And then we starved—he starved the state universities over the last two and a half years with that budget impasse… Meanwhile, because of Governor Rauner’s reticence on getting a budget done, those universities, five of our state universities, went into deep junk bond territory…And it’s gonna take them years to crawl out of it. And now he’s talking about, well, we should just get rid of some of these universities and consolidate them. If that was your plan, then you should actually put forth a plan, not just starve them to death and then have no other option, right? There are options. We need to invest more in higher education.

 

Reaction to recordings of JB Pritzker and Rod Blagojevich discussing  a possible appointment to fill Barack Obama’s vacant Senate Seat, and Mendoza’s continued support forPritzker

Ken:                You’re not deterred by these developments with the Blago tapes?

00:45:09

Susana:            Well, I think, for example, to me the one that was…I felt like disappointed on was the one with Jesse White. And I feel it’s a terrible choice of words. But I also feel that J.B. has a lifetime of advocacy and championing causes that are important to that very community, along with so many others, right?            Just what he’s done alone with early childhood education in preparing like Hispanic and African American kids to be able to compete with all the other children. Nobody has led on that issue, even nationally, as much as J.B. Pritzker has. School breakfast for kids—

Ken:                Interestingly, you’re doing a little bit better job selling it than he is, I would have to say.

Susana:            Well, I don’t know, but I’m just telling you why I still support him. And I think that what he did was, you know, an unfortunate use of words, but it doesn’t represent who he is as a person and what his entire life’s product has been. And I think that should weigh more heavily on voters when they’re looking at candidates than, you know, a less than stellar moment for him, right?

Here’s the other point that I’d like to say about that in particular, is that unlike Governor Rauner—and I think it’s important to compare the two, right, ‘cause they’re both running against each other and might ultimately be who is facing off—as much as you can be disappointed about what happened on that tape, J.B. Pritzker acknowledges that it was one of his worst moments, probably, and that he takes full responsibility, and it was a sincere apology, and he has been working hard to make things better.

And that is perhaps my biggest gripe against Governor Rauner, is that no matter what goes wrong in the state of Illinois, no matter what he’s done to actually single-handedly make these bad things happen, he’s never acknowledged any fault in anything. Like he is unwilling, he has a chronic inability to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing or any of the damage that he’s inflicted on the state.

And so as much as it’s not a stellar moment—I would say it was embarrassing and painful for J.B.—from my perspective it was nice to see that he actually owned up to it and that he’s really sincerely apologized and is gonna learn from that mistake. Because if you don’t even acknowledge that you made a mistake, how can you ever learn from that and fix it moving forward?

I’m the first person to say I’m not perfect, he’s not, and nobody should expect any of us to be perfect. I think we should always try to hold ourselves to a higher standard than, you know, your average taxpayers because we’re asking for their trust. But at the same time, we’re not perfect. The key thing here, though, is that when you do make a mistake, are you big enough, in his case is he man enough, to own it and to try to fix it and to never make that mistake again? And I think he certainly is.

Ken:                You think he’d make a better governor than Biss or Kennedy?

Susana:            I think he’ll make a…I think he’d be the best governor. This is why I’m supporting him versus the other candidates. And I think they’re all good men, so I would say on the Democratic side of the ticket, I mean, look at Bob Daiber. He’s probably one of the best people you’ll ever meet in your life, you know.

But who do I think—and I think that maybe, perhaps, my opinion, which I certainly don’t want to oversell to your public—but if anyone has had an up close and personal look at the devastation that Bruce Rauner has caused for our state, it’s me in my capacity as the state’s chief fiscal officer. I deal with it every single day. And so you better believe that I’ve been working very hard over the last year, and we’ve accomplished amazing successes in a short amount of time.

00:48:04          I want to fix the state of Illinois. And I…I decided to get behind the person who I think will be ready to actually lead on day one, who will be able to build the coalitions necessary to… And that means not just Democrats, but Republicans, too, right, that can actually bring people to the table where we’re all acting like adults, not kids, which is kind of what we’ve seen in Springfield, and…and get the job done.

He’s a business guy, but he’s not saying that we should run government like a business. He’s not the Bruce Rauner business model. Bruce Rauner built his wealth by taking over struggling businesses and firing thousands of people. J.B. has created businesses in Illinois. He’s the only candidate actually running for governor that has a history and a track record of actually building businesses and letting other people be self-sufficient, right, and provide for their families and so forth.

So I think, you know, he brings a lot to the table, and he’s a really good person. And while it wasn’t his best moment on that tape, I’ve seen so many really incredible, sincere, good moments from J.B., and I expect to see a whole lot more when he’s our governor.

 

Reaction to revelations that Alania Hampton accused her supervisor in Mike Madigan’s office of sexual harassment

Susana:            I think it’s great that Miss Hampton came forward. I do, you know, you have to wonder why does an investigation take three months, right? But I don’t know. I wasn’t privy to that investigation. I do know, though, that the final product of firing this guy, without question, was the right move.

What I do think, though, is that this is a situation that all of us, as executives, have to look at, and look within our own organizations and see what can we do better. Because clearly the disconnect here was that this young lady had to go to the alderman to talk about a difficult situation because there was no other process in place to actually deal with issues of sexual harassment. And I don’t think that that’s unique to the Speaker’s situation here. That’s…you could say that about every elected official, every political organization, and every executive at any level, both public and private.

So I think all of us—and one thing that will definitely, I’m sure, come out of this scenario with the speaker is that I would believe that it’s incumbent upon him to crack down on this and to come forth with a plan on how political committees should operate in this new environment. It’s not a new environment in that this hasn’t happened before, but it’s a new environment in that everybody’s talking about it, and people feel more empowered about bringing forth these allegations. And so they should have like a way to follow my allegation, right? Like if I accuse someone of doing something to me, I don’t want to be like waiting in the wind for three or five or six months, because then I feel like no one’s really taking me seriously.

Ken:                Well—

Susana:            I’d like to have…there needs to be a process in place that you can follow that you feel like your allegation is being taken seriously, because it needs to be. And then number two, like you’re informed throughout this process.

Ken:                Yeah.

Susana:            And I think that there was a massive lack of—

Ken:                Well, that’s—

Susana:            —communication.

Ken:                —that’s the…that’s the issue here, isn’t it? Because Miss Hampton, I mean, certainly there’s no question about the fact she was…she was a Madigan ally.

Susana:            Yeah, no doubt.

Ken:                I mean, she was wholly in this thing.

Susana:            Sure.

Ken:                And she felt that she had to resign because things were so uncomfortable.

Susana:            Yeah, yeah.

Ken:                And she accuses Madigan of running out the clock.

Susana:            Yeah.

Ken:                So she’s…she believes that he’s done her wrong.

Susana:            Yeah. I mean, clearly she does.

Ken:                And that’s one of his closest allies that is saying that.

Susana:            Clearly she does. And again, I think because—

Ken:                So I’ll ask again. Is he—

Susana:            —there was no process in place.

Ken:                —is he vulnerable?

00:54:01

Susana:            I think this is a…he’s had better days, put it that way. So I think everybody’s vulnerable. I don’t think it’s just the speaker. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ken:                Do you think he’ll be able to ride this out, this one?

Susana:            I do, because I think the speaker will learn from this, and he’ll put, you know, measures in place to make sure that it never happens in his organization. But I also think that as a result of that lots of other elected officials in both parties will be probably looking at how they can make their climates more conducive to people coming forward and knowing that there’s a path to monitoring what’s happening. So this is one of those, you know, teachable moments. And unfortunately Miss Hampton had to be the victim in here, and feels doubly victimized. But the bigger question is what are we gonna do to fix it? And—

Ken:                What should they do to fix it? We only have like a minute. But what should they do?

Susana:            Well, they’ve got to put some major teeth into processes, right? Like so in our office we’re looking at revamping even what we do have, which, we do have a process in place, but can we do better? And I think that everybody’s gonna have to do that. It’s not just at the speaker’s level. It has to be all of us that take responsibility for this as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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CN Feb 8 2018 Ed Zotti

 

On Monday, the City accepted four proposals from consortiums of companies interested in building a transit link between downtown Chicago and O’Hare airport. Mayor Emanuel expressed great pleasure about the amount of interest shown in the proposed project, and reiterated his assertion that no taxpayer money would be used to build the line.

We talked this week with noted transit expert Ed Zotti (who still moonlights after four decades as editor and general assistant to Cecil Adams, the World’s Smartest Human and proprietor of the Reader’s Straight Dope column.)

Zotti thinks there’s a good possibility some kind of “express” service will be built.

“I think they will,” he predicted. “I think the chances of making it work on multiple levels are better than people think. And I don’t want to put money on it, but I think it can go ahead as the City expects in the sense that number one, it will get you down fast. Number two, the fare won’t be crazy, and number three, it can get done at some reasonable period of time. And number four, most important of all it won’t cost the City any money.

Of course, we cynics find it difficult to ever accept the idea that something will be built without taxpayer money getting  in the pipeline at some point, but Zotti says it could work as a private-sector investment, and it also could spur some serious re-thinking of transit options that connect to it.

“Once you put in this major piece of infrastructure,” he asserts, “you suddenly have to think what goes in at either end? How does it connect to everything else we’ve got, and a bunch of stuff that people have been talking about, that I personally have been talking about for quite a number of years, suddenly start to think how are we going to make it all fit together? Now is the opportunity. You’re going to make major investments. You’ve got to do some major rearrangements and things. If you’re going to do anything ever now is that time.”

Zotti’s especially heartened by the quality and experience of some of the companies that submitted proposals. They include Amtrak, for example, and companies with extensive experience building infrastructure for the CTA.

But he’s not expecting the City to go along with the Elon Musk idea for a high-speed tunnel. That technology, he says, is at least 20 years away. A surface line, though, using some existing right-of-way, might be the answer, he says.

“Can you do it in 20 minutes?” he asks. ” Can you do it in – are there a lot of grade crossings? I don’t know, but it’s not a crazy thing to ask for. It’s not like you have to build a tunnel.”

Zotti is bullish on Chicago’s near-term future, and he says the trends would seem to support the O’Hare line and the associated transit infrastructure it could make possible.

“We have the fastest growing downtown in the country, I don’t want to sound like City administration here, but it’s true, in terms of population we’re at record highs in terms of employment. Downtown Chicago, the core, the central area, accounts for more than half of jobs in the City of Chicago. The first time probably in the history of the City that’s ever been the case. So that’s what’s working, and you want to play to that, and it’s the downtown jobs…I mean there’s a lot of jobs for a lot of people at a whole range of income and skill levels. So the fact that downtown Chicago becomes more viable as a business center is a good thing for a lot of people. And even if you yourself never in a million years would pay 30 or 25-bucks or whatever it is to ride a train, the fact that it’s there and other people do is a good thing for you potentially.”

In the near term, though the CTA is facing some serious drop-off in ridership.

“Rail as dropped off a lot,” he reports. “I’ve written extensively about this. Between 1992, which was the low point, and 2015 rail rose virtually every year. Bus has been up and down. Bus, let me be frank, is in long-term decline. I mean 50 years ago it was 600-million rides a day and now it’s down. It’s heading down to 200-million.”

The irony is that downtown employment continues to rise, but rail traffic is declining.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that as downtown employment goes up rail ridership goes up, because it’s the easiest way to get downtown. 2015 that very clear-cut process came to a halt. Employment continued to go up, but total rail ridership went down. What clearly was happening in my opinion was the Uber-effect. There were other things at work. Gas prices were at historically low levels…But the people who take the journey to work on the L continues to rise at a steady pace as one would expect, given the fact that downtown employment continues to go up. What is probably happening is that non-work trips are in decline…And just anecdotally, the CTA will tell you that evening traffic seems to be off. Weekend traffic which is counted separately obviously is way off, as much as 20% on some lines.

So people seem to be using Uber as an alternative to rail when they’re not going directly downtown, or when the streets are less congested, or for an evening/weekend short rip to recreation, etc, when an Uber/Lyft ride from the front door to a bar or social event can cost only a little more than the CTA.

Zotti predicts that CTA rail will always be viable whenever the expressways are clogged with traffic.

“If you can carry large volumes of people despite the fact that you’ve got street congestion, that’s a reason for people to ride your service. And that’s what’s propelled the growth of the rail service in Chicago for more than 20 years. And it went up, what my research established was that it went up in lock step with services employment in the core.”

But great change is ahead. A new generation is remaking the city center as not only a place to work and play, but also to live. And although we may not know how these trends will affect mass transit, we know even less about how it will affect the driving of personal cars.

“I was at a fascinating seminar about a year ago talking about what people plan to build now versus (then), like a parking structure,” Zotti explains. “You build a big commercial complex you’ve got to have a huge amount of parking structure.  The architects now are telling people figure out a way to reuse this space.”

In other words, build a building you can re-purpose, rathe than demolish when you won’t need it any more.

“Ten years down the road, exactly, because you’re not going to need anywhere this much space for parking, a fascinating story,” he says. “So have shallow spaces. Have enough depth that you can put air-conditioning ducts and that kind of stuff in.

So expect to see garages without extensive ramps, and with higher floors. Buildings that could easily be flipped to offices or labs or warehouses.

A recent passion of Zotti’s has been attempting to re-ignite a conversation about extending transit into and through the parts of downtown that have almost no public transit.

“I was with Central Area Committee,” he tells us, “and we proposed in 2016 something we were calling the Connector, which is, I’m trying to draw you a picture of where it went, but it was going to serve many of the same areas on the periphery of the traditional loop. It would connect the rail stations, the Metra stations to the CTA, which right now are very poorly connected. I mean if you go to New York, Washington, Boston, you can take the suburban rail system in and there is a station right there, and we don’t have that. You’ve got to walk blocks if you can even find it. So I think those things need to happen, and that’s what I think the value of this express to O’Hare will be. Once we get that in place,” he says, it can be a trigger ” To get everything else going.”

 

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Feb 8 2018 A.D. Quig

 

Will Fritz Kaegi’s challenge to Andrea Raila’s petitions succeed, knocking her off the ballot for Cook County tax assessor? If not, will her presence on the ballot mean that the challengers will split the anti- Joe Berrios vote, and he gets re-elected? Those are the big questions in the air right now, as Raila now faces a final board hearing, where two hearing officers will make the final decision. And if they split, she gets on the ballot.

“There’s a lot to be said about the system for getting on the ballot here,” says The Daily Line’s A.D. Quig. “I mean the minimum to get on for Assessor and other executive county offices like County Board President is 8,200 roughly. For Governor, for Attorney General it’s only 5,000.”

But that legal number, of course, is only a minimum. “To really be safe that you’re going to make it you have to get three times that amount or else you’re going to get challenged into the ground, and they can challenge you on this signature doesn’t match the one that they have at the Board of Elections. Their address has changed. You notarized it wrong. The person that circulated it didn’t sign this correctly. So there are a lot of technicalities that can get you booted off, and Joe Berrios challenged both Fritz Kaegi and Andrea Raila, ultimately decided they couldn’t get within striking distance of getting them under 8,000, so he walked away.”

That didn’t clear the path for Raila, though.

“But what’s happening now,” Quig tells us, “is Fritz Kaegi has challenged Andrea Raila’s, the notarization process and saying she and her family and members of her business perpetrated this widespread fraud, so notarizing things when the circulator wasn’t there in person, taking petition sheets that were mailed into the campaign and putting them back out on the streets so that the sheet would get filled up instead of them turning in one or two signatures…And the hearing officer believed that case, and Kaegi had a very high burden of proof. He had to prove she went into this with intention and the hearing officer went with Kaegi.”

The stakes are enormous. The Assessor’s job is vitally important, and the accusations against the incumbent are detailed and complicated. They were first laid out by Jason Grotto in the Tribune last June. You can watch his interview withChicagoNewsroom here.

The problem is that the petition battle is taking valuable time away from the issues, Quig laments. “There are so many accusations flying in this thing that we can’t even get to the discussion about what’s wrong with the assessment system,” she tells us.

Shorty after the series of articles by the Tribune and ProPublica, President Toni Preckwinkle demanded an independent inquiry of the entire assessment system.

“If you’re working in politics this was a huge deal,” Quig explains. “So she announced this back in July, late July, and we’ve been waiting and waiting for this report to come out. And last week the Tribune wrote a story saying all right, it’s been seven months; how long could this possibly take? Is Preckwinkle slow-walking this because she wants to protect Joe Berrios? So she came out this week and said, “Nope, it’s coming out next week. We will have a full month before the Primary, so we can work this out.” And it also allows Joe Berrios to say, “I’m following all the recommendations from this independent study and we’re going to make this right.”

But, as Grotto pointed out, there have been studies before this.

“We’ve had I think five studies now that have said there’s a problem with the assessment system,” Quig explains. “So if this report comes to the conclusion it won’t be terribly surprising. But now we have this commitment from Berrios and Preckwinkle that what is in these recommendations we are going to follow.”

Of course, we had that commitment before. “Right,” Quig agrees. “So what a lot of people forget is that the Tribune series showed that Berrios had access to a system to make the assessment more fair dating back to 2011 and he abandoned them.”

A.D.Quig covers all aspects of County government, and she tells us there’s a brouhaha bubbling up at the County Board over Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s slow progress in modernizing the office’s Information Technology.

“She thinks she gets a bad rap on not implementing technology,” quick says. “There was this big battle this week about the e-filing system, which the State has mandated for every circuit court, and it’s going slowly and commissioners aren’t happy. Dorothy Brown has had e-filing on her website since 2008. It’s very clumsy and you still can’t get access to documents online. If you go to federal court it’s called Pacer. You pay a little money you can get access to every single item on the docket. So the State has mandated e-filing by next January, and there has been all this back and forth with Brown’s office about well we already have e-filing. And it’s just extremely complicated and very frustrating for commissioners who have said, “We gave you $36-million to upgrade your technology. Why isn’t this happening when it’s supposed to?”

When the BGA and WBEZ reviewed 113 suburban police shootings over the last 14 years they found dozens in which suspects weren’t armed, shots were fired into moving cars and other actions that violated the town’s own policies. Sheriff Tom Dart offered to help the suburban police forces with training and technical assistance, but he ran into resistance.

“Cook County agreed to do a hearing on how they might do that,” Quig reports, “And when President Preckwinkle was asked about it she said, “Well you know we had this giant budget crunch this past year. We had to lay off 1,000 people and we are trying to slice costs as much as possible, so I’m not sure what kind of resources we can dedicate to this, but I’m excited to see what Tom Dart proposes.”

You can read a transcript of this discussion here: CN transcript Feb 8 2018 A.D. Quig

You can listen to this program on SoundCloud here.

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CN Feb 1 2018

 

Robert Reed is a business columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He’s written on a broad range of topics from Net Neutrality to McDonald’s plastic cold drink cups, and he came to the table this week for a free-ranging conversation about the economy and Chicago’s business climate. We changed topics pretty often, so here are some highlights from our conversation.

On the historic digital disruption we’re all living through in retail, entertainment, medicine and just about everything else:

But the whole relationship is changing, so maybe you will go to a store and pick up something that you ordered online. We’re going to see that in retail, apparel, and appliances, and we’re also going to see it in groceries. That’s a real big area of change. And Amazon is driving all of this.

Big, big stuff, and you know it is across the board. It’s going to happen in medicine. It’s happening in education. You name it, whatever it is, whether it’s a for-profit industry, a non-for-profit industry, the changes that are rippling through are going to have to be dealt with. And what no one can really say right now is it for the greater good and what’s the greater good. Will people be employed? Will they be able to live where they want to live?

 

On Amazon’s HQ2. Chicago’s in the top five, he believes, and one of our weaknesses is a strength: We’ve got lots of places for people to live:

It would have a positive impact, but there would be riplets because of it. But frankly, that’s one of the reasons why I personally believe Chicago has a good shot at it, because when you look at the, what they call the request for proposal that Amazon put out, Chicago does size up pretty well. And one of the things that I think Amazon is concerned about is community backlash, because they are having problems in Seattle on this point and Mayor Rahm Emanuel I think is right. They don’t want to walk into that problem again, which they could in a lot of the markets they are looking at. Chicago could absorb them. There are what, eight to ten tracts of land that you could do something with. So I think from that perspective it has a shot.

Increasingly though, I think the political dysfunction of the State is going to get in the way, because nobody wants to parachute into the middle of some kind of brawl like that, and that could be a problem. And so when you look over that list of 20 I think Chicago has a shot. I think the Washington area has a shot, but I also wouldn’t rule out something out of the blue, you know.

 

More Amazon: It looks as thought Amazon is set to battle, and possibly forever change, Walgreens. Can Amazon kill Walgreens?

I don’t think it could do that. I think Walgreens will have to do something, maybe like CVS is acquiring Aetna and become more of a healthcare provider, but Walgreens seems to be more intent on staying within the retail pharmacy, cosmetics, that world. And you know it’s a highly regulated industry, and one of the things that Walgreens has been able to do is navigate that. Amazon less so. I mean when Amazon has tried to sell basically regulated products it has run into problems, like liquor and beer, so there’s a learning curve there.

 

When a company is perceived as old and not modern in its ways, is it curtains? We talk about Sears and McDonald’s, two historically Chicago-based giants.

I think both of them had sort of for a long time said, “We will tell the customer what they want, and we’re not going to listen to the customer.” And that changed, and in McDonald’s case they heard and they’ve gone through a number of wrenching changes to be more… You know you are still selling fast food, so the areas of nutrition and healthy diets and all that, that’s not going to go away. They still have to deal with those issues. In the case of Sears, they wanted to be everything to everyone. They told you what they were going to give you, and if you didn’t like it well there was something wrong with you. [Laughs]

 

On the digital and generational shift happening in virtually every industry and business:

And the difficulty as a worker is to recognize and go with the change and not resist it, while at the same time maintaining what I consider to be core values and keeping true to yourself, and not getting swept away by all of this innovation and losing your humanity or looking out for other people. It’s difficult to cope in this society.

You can listen to this show on SoundCloud here.

You can read the transcript of this show here:CN transcript Feb 1 2018

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CN Jan 25 2018

About a third of a million Americans work today in the solar energy field. They’re making solar panels, wire, inverters, conduits, roof support racks and hundreds of other products. They’re working in offices designing custom installations, since every roof is different. They’re climbing up on those roofs carrying heavy equipment and bolting it down against windstorms and heavy snows. And most of them are making good money.

At at time when the conventional wisdom was that everyone had to go to law school or get an MBA, an entire generation of clever, handy people works in an industry that’s actually improving the earth’s environment.

The big driver in this suddenly-booming business? Solar panels that cost a tiny fraction of what earlier versions cost only a couple of years ago.

Our guest this week works at such a company. Lisa Albrecht is a board member of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. But she also works at Solar Solutions in Niles, where they’ve been installing solar systems for forty years. But these new efficient panels are game changers, she tells us. ComEd charges roughly 10 to 11cents per kilowatt hour, but the arrays she’s putting on roofs today are really turning the financial equation upside-down.

“If I look at the amount of energy that they are going to produce over 25 years they actually end up paying about six to seven cents per kilowatt hour installed,” she tells us, “So less than the utility charges you today. And you don’t have inflation costs on top of that, never raising costs…So, you have a fixed rate of energy on your roof for the next 30 years. And I can say that because the manufacturer warranty on that product is 25 years.”

The reason we’re talking today is that the Trump Administration announced  few days ago that it would be imposing 30% tariffs on all the solar panels made outside the U.S., ostensibly to save American Jobs. But only a few thousand of those hundreds of thousands mentioned earlier actually work in American panel manufacturing plants. The real jobs, and the real growth, is in installing, and applying, that technology to buildings and vacant land parcels. And Albrecht says the tariff will hurt, but it won’t be a fatal blow.

“I saw a lot of sensationalism on the news, people were panicking,” she tells us. “I don’t think it’s going to kill the industry. It’s going to slow things down a little bit. People were buying solar panels three years ago, two years ago. Basically, it’s putting us back there in terms of price, but the prices will continue to come down. We get more efficiencies all the time.”

The industry is growing so quickly that it’s attracting all kinds of innovation, so that more efficient forms of solar collection methods could completely revolutionize the business again and again.

“I think not only more efficient, but I think they will also probably look different and how they are applied will be different,” she enthuses. “I mean there is research right now that for example spray-paints that create energy. Tesla has the whole solar roof. There’s a see-through window basically piece of photo-voltaic that, just imagine, like the Sears Tower actually  has some experimental windows that include that also. If you start really to look at what surfaces in society see the sun and can those produce electricity, it gets really exciting.”

Albrecht tells us that her company, before the tariffs, was able to install solar on a typical bungalow for about ten thousand dollars.  “So, if I’m using a 300-watt panel, let’s say I do 20 of them, I’m going to get about a 6-kilowatt system and that’s going to be somewhere around $20,000 before incentives. Now there’s a 30% federal tax credit and the State of Illinois also has some separate incentives, so that brings that cost down to less than $10,000.

“And so it will be a 30% tax just on the solar panels themselves,” she continues, ” so the solar panels are just a portion of the total cost of the installation. Whether it’s on a rooftop or whether it’s in a huge solar field with thousands of panels, this is a portion of that piece, so for residential we’re looking at maybe a 10% increase in costs.”.

That 10% increase probably won’t scare off too many customers, she says, but federal threats to eliminate the tax credits would be another matter entirely.

But the industry isn’t going away, she insists, because “There’s more people employed in the solar industry than in coal, oil, and gas combined. And people don’t realize that that’s how large solar is. I think a lot of people just assume that it still is a niche. It is no longer a niche; it is a mainstream.”

And for Chicagoans accustomed to the ways of City Hall, here’s a shocker: Albrecht says the City bureaucracy has actually embraced solar rooftops on houses. “I started personally going down to the Building Department,” she smiles. “I had permits that took over a year to pull. And the City recognized that that was a problem, so they actually received a grant from the Department of Energy, it’s called a SunShot Grant, and to pull a solar permit today on a standard residential house takes me one day.”

Although Lisa Albrecht lives very much in the practical world, she enjoys thinking about the future that solar energy can bring.

“In reality,” she begins, “for just one hour of sunshine that strikes the surface of the earth we have enough electricity if we turned that sunshine into electricity to power all of humanity for an entire year. One hour, one day, a whole year. So, even decades ago Buckminster Fuller was looking at this and he was like, well, what if electricity just followed the sun and we just kept the transmission flowing?”

A kind of global collection grid that could send the energy to the dark hemisphere?

“Exactly,” she replies. “And we could put solar panels around the equator. There’s many solutions if we are just committed to finding them, and that’s before we even add in wind or hydro or many of the other claimed technologies. We don’t necessarily need nuclear. We don’t need coal. We don’t need natural gas. I see those as transitional fuels, you know, which I’m sure they would not like to be considered a transition fuel, but really their days are over.

And, she concludes, “My vision is that we will never build a house without solar. It doesn’t make sense.”

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CN Jan 18 2018 (ProPublica)

Guest host Craig Newman is joined by ProPublica Illinois’ Editor in Chief Louise Kiernan and reporter Jason Grotto. They discuss being the first regional publishing operation of ProPublica, their reporting around Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, and their revelation that the independent watchdog group Project Six might not be all that independent.

You can listen to the discussion on SoundCloud here.

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CN Jan 18 2018 (Education)

 

Guest host Craig Newman welcomes  the Chicago Reporter’s Kalyn Belsha and Sun-Times eduction reporter Lauren FitzPatrick  for a conversation about he state of education in Chicago and the future of CPS under new CEO Janice Jackson. Belsha also discusses her reporting on the drastically changing dynamic at CPS as thousands of African American students have left the system.

You can listen to this program on SoundCloud here.

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CN Jan 11 2018 Michael Wasney

Over the past decade, the Chicago Police (and, for that matter, other urban police departments) have come to rely more and more heavily on technology, apps and database management to supplement their police work. Some might fear it’s slowly supplanting command decisions.

Chicago’s police stations, many of them built new during the 80s and 90s, were constructed with robust internet backbones in order to quickly accommodate the rapidly-approaching tech revolution.

Today, it’s here.

Pole-mounted cameras have been around for years, along with laptops in patrol cars and electronic files for offenders and contacts.

But what Michael Wasney wrote about in last week’s South Side Weekly is far more advanced than many Chicagoans might have expected.

It’s called The Shots Heard Round the City.

It has to do with ShotSpotter, just one suite of software the CPD has now deployed against street violence.

“They told me that this was actually the most rapid rollout of ShotSpotter that SST Incorporated, the company that manufacturers it has ever done,” Wasney explains. “So I actually did not get that confirmed before press time by the CEO, but I think that is very reflective of how emphatically they have embraced this technology, despite the fact that A) they’ve had dissatisfactory results with ShotSpotter in the past, and B) many other cities have faced concerns about its effectiveness, possible legal oversteps with regards to constitutional rights and eavesdropping laws.”

So what can this rapidly-deploying technology do, exactly?

“So as it stands, I guess by the end of February the Chicago Police Department plans to have around 130 square miles of the City blanketed by this acoustic gunshot protection software,” Wasney begins.

And for the record that 130 square miles is almost half the the total city footprint.

“It’s a lot,” he continues, “Which makes sense because again, by the end of February they plan to have 12 of the 22 police districts in Chicago blanketed by the software…it’s basic technology that is literally a physical acoustic box basically. It’s about the size of a toaster. It’s put on rooftops, telephone poles. I think the company advertises that they like it to be above 20-feet above the ground for optimum efficiency, and basically I think there are supposed to be about 24 sensors per square mile, although that varies depending on specific features of where it’s placed – topography, the density of buildings, how tall the buildings are, etc., etc. But essentially that’s going to be in 12 of the 22 police districts, and essentially what happens is say a gunshot is fired, three of the sensors will basically pick up the sound of the gunshot and you need three basically to triangulate it. That sound is then effectively sent to the California headquarters, I think it’s in Newark, California, of ShotSpotter, where it’s essentially determined by human experts as to whether it’s actually a gunshot, at which point it is pinged back to the Police Department and also to smartphones.”

The company claims that its Chicago installations are accurate to 80 feet. Standard Chicago bungalows are often on 25X125 lots, so if a gun is fired on the front porch, the Spotter will find it on that lot or maybe one house away.

But here’s the tricky part. These Shot-spotters are, after all, microphones, and they’re always recording. What happens, we ask Wasney, to all that recorded material?

“Even before a gunshot is fired,” he explains, “The microphones are always recording, and all of that data is retained in a server, which is physically based in California. So all of that auditory sound data is being downloaded onto the server, and then not just when a gunshot is fired, when a sound that whatever the algorithm is, when a gunshot is fired and the algorithm kind of detects that as a possible gunshot then the two seconds of audio before the boom and four seconds after is basically sent to the California headquarters, where then that’s the first time that you see a human expert involved in the process, at which point they go through an extra vetting process where they determine is it actually a gunshot, is it a firework, is it like a car. If it is confirmed to be a gunshot at that point it’s pinged back to the CPD or whatever other agency is using this technology. So, yes, all of the sound data is preserved on their server, although at a certain point it is deleted just for reasons of storage and data.

But, we ask, does that raise issues of people being inadvertently recorded, in a way they wouldn’t have wanted, that has nothing to do with a gunshot or a crime?

“It has happened,” Wasney asserts. “Not in Chicago, but it has happened. There have been several cases, and this has raised a lot of alarm and controversy concerning Fourth Amendment rights and, again, eavesdropping statutes. I believe it happened in Oakland, California. I also believe it happened somewhere in Connecticut, where basically someone fired a gun and in the two seconds prior and four seconds after they basically said something that ended up incriminating them and it was used in court to incriminate that person. Which obviously the representatives of the defendant raised concerns that that was overstepping the constitutionally-allowed… It was basically infringing on the constitutional rights of the defendant.”

And one more issue. Chicago doesn’t own this equipment. We’re not installing it. And We don’t own the rights to it. But we buy our own data from the company.

“So,” Wasney explains, “As it stands ShotSpotter is a subscription service and it was not always that way. This technology has actually been around for decades at this point, but I think once it was 2011 or 2012 the company made a transition from a high-priced system that an agency would buy fully to a subscription service, and there are probably a couple of reasons behind that. One, it was really really expensive for an agency to purchase the software, but I think another reason was honestly because they now have the ability to keep the data and the data is proprietary, so they can sell it if they wish.

There’s so much more in this discussion. There’s CPD’s use of HunchLab, predictive policing software that Wasney describes as “essentially a machine-learning software that basically predicts crime, and where crime will happen,” and helps identify “hotspots” in the City.

“A huge worry around a software like this is that it will simply act as a proxy for other biases,” he asserts, “So if you are having historical crime data that is for the most part focused on the south and west sides of Chicago simply because historically there’s been an over-policing of those areas.”

And finally, this from Wasney’s South Side Weekly article:

“The vast majority of alerts received from the SST’s headquarters to CPD, back to the Chicago Police Department, the vast majority resulted in dead ends. There was no evidence found, no reason to begin a case, let alone make an arrest. Of 4,814 unique ShotSpotter-linked events identified by the OEMC’s data just 508 of 4,800, a little over 10%, resulted in the CPD finding enough evidence to open an investigation. That’s roughly analogous, and this is important, with the rate of cases opened from solely human-related gunshots reported to 911.”

Listen to this discussion on SoundCloud.

Read the full transcript of  this discussion here:transcript Jan 11 2018 Michael Wasney

 

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CN Jan 11 2018 Stacy Davis Gates

 

Stacy Davis Gates is the Political Director for the Chicago Teachers Union.

She’s been a student, teacher, a principal and a parent at many Chicago Public Schools, but at some point in her life she decided it was time for activism. She joined the CTU, she says, because she saw the public schools as a fulcrum for change.

“You can drive down entire city blocks in Englewood and see the divestment, see the divestment, not disinvestment, because that would presuppose that there is some idea of investment. You know there’s been divestment in that community, so this is basically the cherry on top of the divestment sundae that the families in Englewood have been dealing with.”

Specifically, she’s telling us about the recent hearing in Englewood to seek the community’s approval for closing four neighborhood high schools in return for the promise that an expensive new one will be built there in the years to come.

“The hearing last night,” she claims, “was tragic in a number of ways. You know you see black mothers in this City begging and crying for identity, to be seen, to have their needs for safety, to have their needs for public education, to have their needs for gainful and stable employment addressed. And so, what we saw last night were more tears. What we saw last night was more begging, more teeth gnashing, and it’s something that’s really tragic, especially in Chicago.”

CPS has offered the premise that the action is not just a closure, it’s a consolidation, and that the consolidation is what the community wants. She’s not buying it.

“These schools too, little known fact, they are meeting every requirement that they need to meet, right?” she demands. “Against all odds of disinvestment, of invisibility that they experience in that space, those students are still making the mark. Those teachers are still coming back every single day. Those PSRPs and clinicians they are doing the best that they can with the little investment that they’ve received, and they are still hitting their marks. So when they hear closure, when they hear we can’t invest in you or we can’t provide you with the basic necessities, then there’s a rage, there’s the tears.”

We ask about Janice Jackson, who has recently risen to the top post at CPS, and who, like Davis Gates herself, has children in CPS schools, attended them herself and had worked in them as a teacher and a principal. Doesn’t that give her optimism that Jackson might be more in touch with the CPS parents and might be more sensitive about difficult school actions?

“We are a mayoral-controlled school district,” she begins. “Mayoral-controlled school districts is a failed policy. She’s going to take orders like the other six CEOs of the district took orders because the Mayor is still in control. People can have the best intentions, but the impact is what it is, quite frankly. The impact is that our schools are being defunded. Black educators are being pushed out the door because of student-based budgeting. We had a school district that once reflected the student population and it no longer does that. So I am clear that until we have an elected representative school board, until mayoral control in the Chicago Public Schools is a relic of the past, that we’re going to have the same types of impact with every single CEO.”

“And they also say that they weren’t closing all four high schools either,” she concludes. “They also said it would be a consolidation and we’re not experiencing either of those things now. So why would anyone who understands the way in which CPS and the City of Chicago work, why would they believe them?”

You can hear the entire discussion on SoundCloud here.

And you can read a full transcript here:CN transcript Jan 11 2018 Stacy Davis Gates

 

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